The Baylor Bears won their first NCAA basketball title after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the finals tonight, 86-70. The Bears showed an incredible focus and relentless mindset that led them to the biggest win in the history of the program against a team that had 31 wins this season, without a single defeat.
However, they couldn’t do anything in the finals against Scott Drew’s side, as Baylor immediately set the tone on the court. The Bears had an 11-1 lead after four minutes, indicating that this game might develop differently from what many expected to see.
From that moment on, the Bulldogs came down to a double-digit deficit just once, and the Bears were routine all the way until the end.
“You try to do everything within your power to flip the switch,” Zags’ head coach Mark Few said. “But yeah, it was tough. When they’re consistently just more aggressive on both ends, it was hard to generate rhythm.”
Every push Gonzaga tried was countered with a surge from the other side. Every switch in the defense Few tried was punished almost immediately, while on the other side, his talented offense didn’t have a chance of breaking the rock-solid defense of the Bears.
Even though the Bulldogs shot 51% from the field, that simply isn’t showing the true situation on the floor of Lucas Oil Stadium. Zaga was poor behind the three-point line, having just five hits in 17 attempts, most of them forced with their players being in tough positions or with the time running out.
On the other side, Baylor was dominant in the air, posting 16 boards more than the rivals, 38-22, allowing them just five in offense, while they had 16, which is another big reason for their victory.
Jared Butler had 22 points with seven assists and four threes. Macio Teague added 19, in 31 minutes on the floor, being a consistent threat for the Bulldogs’ defense.
Davion Mitchell had an all-around game with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. At the same time, Mark Vital did all the dirty work with 6 buckets, but 11 boards, eight of them on the offensive side of the ball, with two steals and a block, being the difference-maker in certain aspects that had a massive impact on the final result. Adam Flagler also needs to be mentioned with 13 buckets.
THE BAYLOR BEARS ARE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS 🐻🏆
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 6, 2021
On the other side, Jalen Suggs, the hero of the semifinals, had a team-high 22 points with three assists and 8 hits from the field in 15 attempts. Drew Timme was under his usual productivity with just 12 points and five boards in 33 minutes, making five of seven shots from the field. Corey Kispert, too delivered 12 points, and these guys were the only ones with ten or more buckets in Gonzaga.
What was noticeable was the absence of support from the bench, as non-starters scored seven points.
The Bulldogs didn’t manage to become the only team to win the NCAA title without a defeat since the expansion of the brackets, and the first one since Indiana Hosiers in 1976 had a flawless season. However, they are the top favorites to take the title next season, but it is questionable which players are going to come back and which aren’t.
As for the Bears, the injustice that hit them last year is now erased. Baylor had 23 straight wins and was in one hell of a shape before the season stopped due to the COVID-19 virus. They were one of the biggest, if not the biggest, favorites to win the title, but the off-court factors prevented them from doing the same.
Yet, in the end, they got their prize.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.